Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
United States begins a new war, what happens to Afghanistan?
The United States has said the scope of its military intervention in Libya is limited, but it nevertheless raises questions about what happens to the two other wars that it is waging, especially in Afghanistan. The last time Washington took the eye off the ball in Afghanistan was in 2003 when it launched the Iraq war and then got so bogged down there that a low level and sporadic Taliban resistance in southern Afghanistan grew into a full blown insurgency from which it is still trying to extricate itself.
The question then is will the U.S. attention again shift away from Afghanistan and to Libya and indeed other African and Middle East countries where revolts against decades of authoritarian rule are gaining ground, and unsettling every strategic calculation. Already U.S. Republicans are saying they are concerned that U.S. forces may be getting drawn into a costly, long-running operation in Libya that lacks clear goals. If it ends in a stalemate – a possibility recognized by Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen – how focused can America be on Afghanistan where you can argue that the stakes are arguably less now that al Qaeda has largely been pushed out, and the fight is almost entirely with the Taliban.
Just by way of recap, here’s broadly what happened to Afghanistan when America’s attention and money were drained toward Iraq. Militant groups reconstituted themselves, more safe havens sprung up, and they were financed by a resurgent opium economy . Post-war reconstruction was curtailed as blood and treasure was invested in the war in Iraq. In some ways, it was a throwback to another U.S withdrawal from the region when it almost overnight lost interest following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 after a decade of arming and financing the insurgents against its former Cold War foe
The other unintended consequence of the U.S. military action in Libya is the anger it will stoke in countries such as Afghanistan where many see it as an attack on an Islamic nation, the latest of a string of nations so targeted. Regardless of its good intentions, the intervention will be depicted as aggressive, predatory and anti-Muslim, as Edward N. Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in the Los Angeles Times.-
Indeed the war may have just become hotter for the troops in Afghanistan, with the Taliban seizing on the intervention in Libya as the latest onslaught in a broader war on Islam. The Taliban in a statement said the Western intervention was aimed at weakening the Islamic nation and seizing its oil reserves through a full scale invasion. For good measure, the Taliban scolded the Libyans for fighting among themselves and thereby giving an excuse to the West to intervene.
(Photograph of scene at an Afghan army recruitment centre in Kunduz after a suicide attack this month.Reuters/Wahdat.)